Yule or Yuletide is a festival historically observed by the Germanic peoples. Scholars have connected the original celebrations of Yule to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin, and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht.
Later departing from its pagan roots, Yule underwent Christianised reformulation, resulting in the term Christmastide. Many present-day Christmas customs and traditions such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from pagan Yule traditions. Terms with an etymological equivalent to Yule are still used in Nordic countries and Estonia to describe Christmas and other festivals occurring during the winter holiday season. Today, Yule is celebrated in Heathenry and other forms of Neopaganism.
At Samhain we honour, celebrate and welcome the descent into, and return of, the dark – the beginning of the New Year, acknowledging that all beginnings emerge from darkness. At the Winter Solstice we reach the depth of that darkness with the longest night of the year. Darkness has reached its peak.
“Now we start to wonder: will this continue? Will the Earth grow darker and colder as the Sun disappears into the south until only darkness is left? But at Yule a wonderful thing happens. The Sun stops its decline and for a few days it rises in about the same place. This is the crucial time, the cusp between events. The Sun stands still, and everyone waits for the turning.
In our heads we know the light will return. But in the darkness of Winter, can we be sure? do our hearts believe what our heads tell us? Will the light keep its promises? We all have moments of darkness, when we don’t know how much deeper we will go before the light starts to return (or even if it will). The world has moments too; it understands us, and lives as we do.
In fact many cultures around the world have winter festivals that are in fact celebrations of light. In addition to Christmas, there’s Hanukkah with its brightly lit menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, and any number of other holidays. As a festival of the Sun, the most important part of any Yule celebration is light — candles, bonfires, and more. Let’s take a look at some of the history behind this celebration, and the many customs and traditions that have emerged at the time of the winter solstice, all around the globe.
The Sun does start north again and the light comes back. In the world, in our lives, the light comes back. This is indeed something worth celebrating, and it has been celebrated throughout the Northern Hemisphere in remarkably similar ways.” (quote from The Pagan Family by Ceisiwr Serith)
How to Celebrate Yule or Winter Solstice
- Build a Yule Altar.
- Make an Evergreen Yule Wreath
- Bake A Yule Log Cake
- Burn a Yule Log.
- Decorate a Yule Tree
- Exchange Nature-Based Gifts
- Give Back to Nature
- Celebrate in Candlelight
- Set up a Meditation Space